Your Career and You: "I Heard You Were Coming… Don’t Make Waves"

I attended a PRSSA Regional Conference recently with a couple of Curry College Public Relations Concentration students and was listening to the keynote address by Boston University’s Dean of Students when memories came flooding in.

This year’s event, entitled “PR Advanced: Unleash Our Generation,” attracted public relations students from colleges and universities throughout New England.

The overarching message in Dean Kenneth Elmore’s remarks was “Be Yourself,” and I found myself saying “Yes!” after nearly every sentence!!

The take-away for students was that it’s not enough to just follow the status quo and do everything that everyone else does.

Stand out. Don’t be afraid to be different. “Be yourself!”

Which brings me back to my title…“I heard you were coming…”

Years ago, I was in the Air Force and, among other adventures, spent about three years at Clark Air Base in the Philippines. My primary duty was managing an audiovisual library with some 2,000 training and informational films (You do remember films, don’t you?!? If you don’t, I’m sure our friend Wikipedia can help fill in the blanks.)

In my usual “not busy enough; what else can I do?” fashion, I managed to get involved in all kinds of community relations, internal relations, and public relations activities both on and off base…none of which were in my job description, but all of which were a TON of fun!

This was just before I figured out what “public relations” was all about, so I chalked everything up to normal Southern neighborliness. Found out a couple of years later when I accidentally (don’t ask!) took a course called “Introduction to Public Relations” what I really was doing and have continued the practice!

Anyway, I got involved organizing educational programs for the American Red Cross in Manila, informational programs for the Philippine Military Academy, and a boatload of training programs for both US military personnel and Philippine civil service employees at Clark.

…in addition to my “day” job.

The end result was an unplanned (for my squadron) major increase in business for the film library, increase in requests for support with on- and off-base meetings and programs, and increased attention by our “higher-ups.”

In other words…increased productivity and return-on-investment for taxpayer dollars that paid our salaries and other expenses as federal government “employees.”

And…at that time…not “business as usual.” I was accused of, among other things, “rocking the boat.”

But it was “me.” It was the way I always had done things…get involved…identify opportunities and pursue them as well as respond to external and internal requests for support and assistance.

Not the “military way” back then, but damned effective and successful in fostering a new level of appreciation for what we…the US Air Force…brought to our presence in the Philippines.

Anyway…when my tour was finished, I returned to the United States and an assignment at another air base. I dutifully checked in with the fellow who was to be my supervisor and was greeted, not with a “Good to have you with us; how was Clark?” but with a glower and these words…”I heard you were coming; don’t make waves.”

Cool! Apparently “being yourself” and doing things outside your specific job description wasn’t the way things were done at this particular base. (Of course, I ignored his warning and continued doing my own thing. There’s another story here involving Playboy magazine, but we’ll save that for another time!)

Dean Elmore’s remarks brought this memory back because he reinforced something I always try to impress on students and others who I talk to about job searches and “standing out in the crowd.”

Take a look at what you’ve done and be ready and able to show your enthusiasm for what you’ve accomplished and your desire to bring creativity and imaginative thinking to the game.

Those who don’t do this will blend into the wallpaper…become part of the faceless herd…not be seen as the “leader of the pack.”

It’s self-analysis time. Are you a stand-out? Or are you just another face in the crowd?

Let them know you’re coming. Be yourself!

“It is the lone worker who makes the first advance in a subject: the details may be worked out by a team, but the prime idea is due to the enterprise, thought and perception of an individual.” Sir Alexander Fleming, “Address at Edinburgh University” [1951]


About kirkhazlett

35+ years' federal government and nonprofit organization PR experience followed by more than 20 years' undergraduate and graduate college teaching experience. Community and media relations expertise, as well as a fanaticism for quality service and customer satisfaction. PR for healthcare and member services organizations ranging from Blood Bank of Hawaii to Medical Area Service Corporation to Boston Harborfest. Consulting services for Manila and Singapore Red Cross.
This entry was posted in careers, Curry College, job hunting, job search, public relations. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Your Career and You: "I Heard You Were Coming… Don’t Make Waves"

  1. Anonymous says:

    Great post – I wish every leader thought this way. Unfortunately, most are under the "don't make waves" side of the world. As a PR pro, I've had my hand slapped so many times, I've learned not to put it out there. Hence, I'm leaving my post in 2 mos. A move prompted the leave, but I'm glad it did.


  2. Thanks for the feedback…and good luck in your transition. I have to agree that not all who are in a position to pass judgment are as open-minded as I would like, but I am seeing a gradual (glacial speed) move in that direction. Fingers crossed!


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